Collect, Readings, and Sermon for Pentecost Sunday
If you would like to join Mother Katie for the live-streamed Eucharist on 31st May at 10:30am please follow this link for details.
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our Pentecost – by Father Donald
‘For without the Spirit there would be no story to tell. Without the Spirit there would be no church, no way to follow’, so wrote James Dunn in his commentary on ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. Today in our lesson we read about the coming of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost which we are reminding ourselves about today. It is also important to know what it means to us.
St. Luke, who wrote the’ Acts’ as a second volume of his history of the Apostolic Church following on from his Gospel.
The events he narrates took place in Jerusalem, where else would it be, Jerusalem is the city of God. At its heart is the Temple where the Jews had been worshipping God over many years. It isn’t in the Temple though that our story is set, it is in The Upper Room which is a hallowed place for the disciples. It is here that the disciples met with Jesus, so it is a place of memories, of time spent with Jesus, especially that time when, just before the crucifixion, Jesus shared a meal with them.
This day is the Feast of Pentecost, when the Jews celebrated the gathering of the first fruits, the dedication of the first sheaf of wheat. How significant this is for in the Upper Room, the first fruits of the Spirit will be gathered in. The twelve disciples are waiting for the promise of the Spirit which Jesus promised. It would also seem that there are other followers of Jesus there too. Perhaps as many as 120. All told.
Suddenly, without any warning, we are told there was the coming of the Spirit. St.Luke uses symbolic language to be able to describe it. But the symbols are full of meaning. ‘And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a mighty wind.’ That the sound came from heaven makes clear that it is God’s work. The wind, the word in Hebrew is ruach, is like the wind which blew at creation when it ‘swept over the face of the waters’; Genesis 1, verse 2. But there is also the notion of the wind being the breath of God. In Genesis 2, verse 7 we read; ‘The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’. This would accord with what is known as the Jesus Pentecost in the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verse 22. It is one of the resurrection appearances. Jesus told his disciples ‘As the father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit’. Of course we often remind ourselves of this when we sing the hymn, ‘Breath on me Breath of God.’
The other symbol is that of fire. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. There are two aspects of this, firstly the fire is among them, thus suggesting that they are a united group. But then it is said that a tongue rested on each of them, reminding them and us that the Holy Spirit works within the individual too.
In the Bible fire usually means cleansing, purifying. This could be a reminder of the ministry of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Jesus in St.Luke 3, verse 16 and the promise that when he comes Jesus ‘will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Here again the promise is fulfilled.
One of the names of the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, usually translated as Comforter. It is true that life in the Spirit gives us a sense of peace and joy. But he also equips us to be disciples. We see at the end of the Day f Pentecost the disciples were carried from the safety of the Upper room to the centre of Jerusalem where they supported Peter as he preached the first sermon proclaiming that the Jesus who the Jews thought was dead is indeed alive and the crowd are invited to repent and be baptised and receive the Holy Spirit and many of them responded, the account tells us there were about 3,000 added to the church that day.
St. Luke ends his account by saying that those who had responded joined with the disciples and devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship and to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So here we have a picture of what it means to be the Church. In the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to share in a fellowship which prays, learns from the teaching of Jesus and seeks to win others for Christ. And very importantly meets with Jesus in the Eucharist.